Page 84 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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Since so much of Ben-Ner’s writing is concerned with the
political present, it is not surprising that he also turns his at­
tention to the future. This future can of course only be dis­
cerned by the examination and analysis of current trends and
their implications. Much of his writing, the concerns of the fic­
tional characters, deals with Israel’s historical reality. But in lit­
erature, this overt political and public preoccupation takes its
meaning and bearings from the personalities and lives involved.
It is not only the immediate subject matter that changes with
the changing circumstances, but also its manner of presentation.
The novel
Malakhim B a ’im
(The Angels Are Coming, 1987)
is a narrative attempt to come to terms with the increasingly
violent and radical Israeli reality as well as to present it in the
manner of the fiction of the late 80s. There are elements of
naturalism, a reflection of the current political landscape, the
ideological extremism and religious fanaticism. Ben-Ner’s
earlier novels had not evinced a taste for social satire. The no­
vellas and the stories,
Ha-Ish mi-Sham
had present­
ed an intensified naturalistic portrait of the individual in Israel,
with its roots, political, social and personal. The individual might
have been confused and thrown off course, subject to historical
forces of his own emotional turmoil. He might also have mis­
apprehended the nature of his own stance and, thus, his own
behavior. The narrative technique too, with its distance (even
when presented in the first person) and its ambiguity, was a
form of modified naturalism. The new novel consciously de­
viated from the norms of earlier Ben-Ner fiction, with its mixed
media approach, the combination of realism and surrealism,
the analysis of human motivation breaking down from the psy­
chological to the parapsychological. Things happen apparently
without causation or, at least, rational explanation. One of the
characters in the novel, Barvazi, sets himself in pursuit of the
meaning of death, i.e. of life, since, for him: “death is a tran­
sition from an illusory and temporary reality to a sure and eter­
nal reality” (p. 9). We must then grant that since reality is being
grasped by the characters in the novel in a novel manner, shift­
ing its terms and changing its shape, so the narrative, in order
to adopt a posture close to its subject matter, also shifts its time
scales, its logical sequences and its general order. Everything